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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Here’s a statement that seemed unlikely just a few months ago: the Sacramento Kings are about to begin the 2013-14 season.
“It’s a new era,” owner Vivek Ranadive has declared over and over since buying the Kings from the Maloof family.
The Kings are coming off their seventh straight losing season and are just beginning a rebuilding project that’s likely years away from completion. Ranadive is trying to lay a solid foundation first — right down to fixing all the potholes in the parking lot of Sacramento’s suburban arena.
The new owner’s first major move was making center DeMarcus Cousins the franchise player by signing him to a four-year, $62 million extension. The Kings are counting on Cousins, who has drawn multiple suspensions from the NBA and the team for his behavior, to keep his cool and show he can lead the franchise’s new era.
“I’ve got big shoulders, so I can handle that,” said Cousins, drafted fifth overall in 2010 after one season at Kentucky. “I consider myself a leader on this team, so I take all the responsibility that comes with it. I’ve had pressure from the beginning, so I don’t have a problem with it. I was doing it in the beginning, so I definitely don’t have a problem doing it now.”
Nobody disputes Cousins’ talent. He averaged 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season and, at times, looked dominant against the NBA’s best big men. But he has struggled with defense and discipline, and he couldn’t co-exist with coaches Keith Smart or Paul Westphal. If Cousins can control his emotions and channel his talent, he could be the key cog in Sacramento’s resurrection.